Second Reading: Galatians 3:26-29

Heirs to the Promise

Popular Translation

26 Everyone of you are God's children when you believe in Jesus Christ. 27 Everyone who is baptized is one with Jesus. 28 With Jesus, no one is know as a Jew or a Greek, as a slave or a free person, as a male or as a female. No, everyone one of you is united with Jesus Christ. 29 If you belong to Jesus, then you belong to Abraham. So, you too are heirs to the promises God made to Abraham, just like the Israelites.

Literal Translation

26 All of you are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For, as many as were baptized, put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female. For all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 But if you (are) of Christ, then you are of Abraham's seed, heirs by (God's) promise.

In these few verses, Paul summarized his argument against his opponents. Paul's enemies insisted that salvation came first through Judaism, then through Christ. In other words, one had to become a Jew (i.e., circumcised) in order to become a Christian. After all, Jesus was a Jew and his first followers were Jewish.

Like any Jew, Paul traced God's salvation inherently to the promises he made to Abraham. The descendants and land God gave to Abraham were to be like God, eternal. Both Paul and his opponents agreed on this point. But, how was this to be accomplished? They were bitterly divided on this question. Paul's opponents argued for Jewish ritual and Torah obligation. Paul argued for faith. He made his case in Galatians 3:6: "Abraham placed his trust in God. This reasoned for him as righteousness." Paul implied that before Abraham could follow God's commands, he needed to trust God. And, since trust in God preceded obedience to his edicts, trust was the means Abraham realized his place as God's chosen. For Paul, justification was based upon faith, not obedience to God's commands.

But, notice Paul took the argument one step further. Unity with Christ was the conduit of the promises. Paul assumed an argument made explicit elsewhere: as the sinless one, Jesus obeyed the Law perfectly. So, he was the true heir of the promises made to Abraham: eternal people with an everlasting land. When someone was baptized into Christ, they died to self and rise with him to new life. Part of that new life is a share in Christ's sinlessness and, so, a share as an heir in God's promises. In Christ, both Jew and non-Jew were children of Abraham as well as children of God. As those of "Abraham's seeds," Christians were part of an eternal people who would live in an eternal place with God.

No matter the status the Christian had in society, he or she was the same in Christ. Why? Because they shared the same trust relationship with God that Abraham had. If faith justified Abraham, it justified the average follower.

Paul may have compressed and assumed steps in his arguments. But, he understood their implications. Trust in Christ opened the door to salvation. This faith made us heirs of God's promises.

How has trust in Christ helped you in life? How has this faith given you a new outlook?